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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Glen Drake

King Kong (2005)

He must protect his house.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) is a filmmaker living in the 1930’s, meaning, he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities. And the ones that he does have, don’t tickle his fancy as much as they used to. That’s why, when he catches wind of a mysterious, huge and odd island out in the middle of nowhere, Denham soon gets the ambition and inspiration all over again. So, he assembles a team full of actors, actresses, crew, and handy-men, who know a thing or two about an adventure and are capable of solving issues, should any of them arise. Aboard the ship is leading-lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who also is in desperate need of a hit and will do anything for the spotlight, just one more time. Screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) feels the same way, but also finds himself falling for Ann, leading him to make some pretty rash decisions along this adventure, all leading up to finally meeting, once and for all, King Kong – the giant gorilla who practically watches over Skull Island and kills any sort of threat that may come its way. In this case, it’s these humans and needless to say, not all of them are equipped to take him down.

Why would you want a human, when you could have a Kong?

After winning practically every Oscar that he could for Return of the King, it made sense that he would be allowed to make virtually any movie that he wanted. Cause it’s a known thing in Hollywood: Make a lot of money, win a lot of awards, earn respect, and guess what? You can make your dream projects a reality. And oddly enough, for Jackson, it was remaking the movie he grew up knowing and loving, King Kong. Oh, and by “remaking”, I mean making two hours longer and adding on more CGI, special-effects, and story than you could ever imagine.

But trust me, this isn’t a stab at Jackson.

If anything, King Kong is Jackson getting the opportunity to play in his sandbox, where the world is his oyster, sky is the limit, there are no rules, and even better, everyone’s watching. A lot of people may have complained about the fact that the movie is over three hours long, takes awhile to actually get to Skull Island, and yeah, features one too many monsters and creatures, aside from the titular Kong, but in a way, that sort of makes the movie more epic; it shows us that Jackson isn’t setting out to make a note-for-note remake, but bask in every single bit of this material and be as excessive as humanly possible.

Is it a little draining? Quite possibly, yes, but at the same time, watching Jackson having the time of his life is, in all honesty, a beauty to behold. There aren’t many directors out there in the world with the impressive and ambitious scope like Jackson’s, so when he’s given carte blanche to do all that he wants and not stop, it’s nothing if not entertaining. Also, when was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that goes by in a flash? King Kong should have been a slog, but it’s not and it’s a true testament to Jackson’s prowess that allows for him to make a three-hour movie about little humans and a big gorilla, feel a lot less than that.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Jackson directs the hell out of this thing and it makes sense why he wanted to bother with this story in the first place.

And even getting away from the technical side of the movie, and focusing more on the actual things that matter, like story, character development, etc., yeah, it still kind of works. The story isn’t all that different from before, but this time around, Jackson does up the emotion in a way that’s surprising, mostly because while we’re watching Kong up there on the screen, we’re watching something believable and impressively done – almost to the point where instead of being scared by him, we’re actually connected to him. The whole tale about this gorilla falling in love with a short little blonde thing is, of course, silly, but the movie doesn’t forget that sometimes, the seriousness of a tale like this can actually work, so long as you build enough tension and emotion behind it all.

That’s what Jackson does and it helps King Kong move along, even when it gets away from the gorilla beating the hell out of other monsters and dinosaurs. Cause even during those sequences, there’s a fun, crazy and almost hectic energy that’s a lot like the Lord of the Rings movies, but still its own kind of beast. Even when Jackson does dial it down for the characters, the movie’s still at least somewhat interesting, because we’ve spent so much time and energy with them, it’s hard not to understand them, at the very least.

Jack knows what I’m talking about.

Then again, the ensemble involved does help out with that as much as they can.

If there’s one thing that holds King Kong back from being a truly and absolutely great movie that it sometimes comes close to being, it’s that the performances can tend to be a bit bland, which may have more to do with the script and less to do with the actual actors themselves. Like, for instance, Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody are two perfectly good actors who can work well when given the material, but for some reason, they just feel underdeveloped; Watts gets some chances to be bright and shiny, whereas Brody is mostly just serious and not all that right for a movie that’s so concerned with everything else that’s going on around him. Others in the cast fare better, like Kyle Chandler, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, and Colin Hanks, mostly because their characters aren’t made out to be the leads and can benefit from some goofiness, but with Watts and Brody, who are supposed to be our emotional anchors throughout this whole thing, it doesn’t fully work.

That said, the movie does benefit from having a very good, very surprising, and very dark performance from Jack Black. Of course, a lot of people will consider Black’s performance to be channeling Orson Welles, but if so, it’s still a good performance, because we see him lay down all of the usual trademarks and conventions that we’re so used to seeing, and hating with the sorts of characters he plays. What we get here, is a person we grow to love to hate and because of Black’s performance gets better, taking on more meaning as the movie develops and we start to see more sides to this twisted, sometimes sad little man.

Which is to say that I’m still waiting for that battle between Black and Kong.

Black Kong. What a name.

Consensus: Ambitious in scope, epic in its look, feel, and overall mood, King Kong is the movie Peter Jackson deserved to make and absolutely revels in the opportunity to do so, for the benefit of us all.

8.5 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: Fernby Films

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Heavenly Creatures (1994)

The main reason why I refuse to travel to New Zealand.

Heavenly Creatures is true story of two teenage girls (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) from New Zealand who form a very strong friendship that changes both of their lives as they live through their own imaginations. However, things start to get strange when their friendship turns into obsession, which soon leads into murder.

The most disturbing aspect of this whole film is that this is an actual true story and while that is effed up in it’s own right, the chicks are still alive and well today, roaming the streets of only God knows where. Then again, this is a Peter Jackson film which means it’s always going to be strange.

The one thing about this film that sets it apart from other films of this nature is the direction and vision from Jackson himself. This is a pretty straight-forward story but the way Jackson tells it through extreme close-ups, awkward camera angles, constant zooming in-and-out, and not many regular shots, gives this flick a real different feel that I haven’t really seen before in a film that’s about two teenagers who go bat-shit crazy.

However, my problem with this whole direction is that everything here is practically going just about a mile a minute and I just wanted this film to slow down a bit. I get what Jackson was trying to do here, he wanted us to see the world through these girls’ own eyes and imaginations but after awhile it felt like Jackson just wanted us to know that it’s him directing so of course we need gigantic clay figures running rampant killing people. The best scenes for me here were when Jackson kind of just let the tension flow and come on in itself without Jackson ever getting in the way of that but for some reason, he just tried a little too hard and got in the way of what was going on.

The film also opens up with these girls covered in blood from head-to-toe screaming about a murder so right off the bat, I knew exactly what was going to happen by the end and for the whole time, I was just sitting there waiting for it to happen. If they didn’t show us this scene right from the get-go, I think I would have been more into this film like I had wished because it was only till after the flick that I actually checked out the actual case itself.

Even though I still bitch about all of these problems with the film I still found myself totally involved with the very disturbing story that this flick is all about. Seeing two girls go from being friends, to obsessive lover types, to stone-cold killers is downright frightening and the fact that everything here is true is what kept me really disturbed. Every film always shows the bright side to friendship and finding your bestie, but you hardly ever see the dark side of that and what it can do to not just everyone around you, but also yourself. The last 10 to 20 minutes are probably some of the most tense and disturbing I’ve seen ever since ‘Bully’ and I have to say that is something worth recommending.

The performances given by the two girls here are awesome and I think elevated this film completley. Melanie Lynskey is great as Pauline Parker and gave me that very angsty but dangerous teen-vibe the whole time. I still cannot look at her the same and actually be able to call her hot seeing this film. Kate Winslet gives a break-through performance here as Juliet Hulme and steals the show giving this incredible energy that keeps the film entertaining every time she is on-screen. It’s crazy to see where these two really got their starts and it’s also even more great that they sort of made me feel something for their characters, even if they are totally effed up in the head.

Consensus: Peter Jackson has way too much style here for me to actually be involved with this story, but regardless, Heavenly Creatures is a flick that is very disturbing, well-acted, and makes you feel as if you are in these girls’ heads as they go from normal to completley insane.

7/10=Rental!!